Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No Facebook For Lent: I'm Getting Smarter Already

The verdict is in from British scientists: Increased Facebook use is giving you a "baby brain." Quoth the Tribune:
Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, warned that the instant feedback and impersonal communication offered by social networking sites could drive human brains and behavior in negative directions.

"As a consequence, the mid-21st Century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity," Greenfield said Feb. 12.
Looks like my 40-day hiatus is coming just in time! I've previously discussed the issue of the Internet making us lazy readers and decreasing our attention spans, but I guess I haven't considered Facebook's level of culpability for turning my brain to mush. It's ironic that the study would find Facebook to shake a user's sense of identity. Maybe that stems from frequently changing your profile picture. If so, I'm in trouble.

Instant feedback? Yes. Impersonal communication? Sometimes. But I would argue that the seemingly mindless back-and-forth of photo comments, wall posts and status updates is simultaneously meaningless, entertaining and wit-sharpening (if done correctly). It also allows me to communicate--however briefly--with people who are no longer in my immediate social circle. I like that and wouldn't want to lose it.

On the other hand, "baby brain" aspect of Facebook is what compels me to sacrifice it for 40 days. My need to stay connected with far away friends is not served by the hours I spend every week reading the status updates and perusing the photos of people I hardly know. That's got to stop, before I start craving nap time and apple juice more than I already do.

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